In Chapter 5 of The Great Gatsby, analyze the symbolism of Gatsby's shirts.
In chapter 5, Jay Gatsby takes Daisy on a tour through his home and shows her his closet full of elegant, expensive clothes. Gatsby mentions that he has a man in England who sends him new clothes at the beginning of each season. Gatsby then begins to throw shirt after shirt onto a pile as Nick and Daisy watch in amazement. Daisy becomes emotional and is overwhelmed by Gatsby's display of wealth as she puts her head into the shirts and begins to cry. Daisy submerses herself into Gatsby's clothes and says,
"They’re such beautiful shirts...It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such —such beautiful shirts before" (Fitzgerald, 59).
Gatsby's shirts symbolically represent his superficial nature and emphasis on appearance. Both Gatsby and Daisy value external appearances over substance and character throughout the novel. Gatsby's arrogant display of wealth and Daisy's overreaction to the expensive shirts reveal their true character and emphasis on material wealth. Similar to Jay Gatsby, the clothes represent his attractive exterior, which covers a corrupted, troubled soul. Like Gatsby's extravagant lifestyle, the shirts are simply for show and worn to impress others. Unfortunately, Gatsby's focus on material wealth will never equate to a meaningful relationship or true happiness. Like Gatsby's expensive shirts, which will deteriorate in time, his superficial relationship with Daisy will eventually end.
The shirts symbolize Gatsby's wealth and demonstrate his rather ostentatious style. When Daisy looks at them all, she is overwhelmed and brought to tears.
The shirts can be seen as a representation of an image or an ideal, one which she and Gatsby seem to share regarding wealth, glamour and self-presentation.
The shirts themselves mean little. They are merely cloth. What they represent is quite meaningful, however, as Daisy and Gatsby both prize appearances and fantasy over substance and reality.
This notion is borne out by the nature of their liaison, which consists of a series of conversations about how great things will be in the future, and also borne out by the fact that Daisy does not leave her husband. The affair between Daisy and Gatsby is, ultimately, simply a show. It is a play at a romance, an image of love.
The shirts then are related to the idea that appearances are important to these two. It is the image that they respond to, not the substance of the thing(s).
Gatsby's shirt is silver, and complete with a gold tie and white flannel suit, his shirt symbolizes and represents his wealth. Silver is a flashy color that is one of several colors that symbolizes a sort of wealthy and rich atmosphere. Gatsby chooses to wear this shirt to tea with Daisy, so it is apparent that he uses clothes to appeal to Daisy. Daisy is with Tom in the first place because of his wealth.